zen.org Communal Weblog

November 12, 2004

Don't you hear that?

Filed under: — brendan @ 17:46 IST

When I’ve got a work contract, I’m upstairs in the office (rear bedroom) hacking away and like to listen to either music or podcasts of different kinds including Adam Curry’s Daily Source Code, the Rock and Roll Geek Show, Air America Radio shows, Reel Reviews, iPodio news, RasterWeb! Audio (silly jokes), and lots more. A visit to audio.weblogs.com shows you the last 100 podcasts to be put on the Net, which you can also have feed right into your player to let you listen to a wide variety of things.

While this started to give yet another cool way to use your iPod, if you don’t actually own one you can still listen to the mp3s for it on your PC, or on your own mp3 player of another company. (Though you’re probably still reconsidering your choice and looking at the iPods of others with a bit of envy, right?) The iPodder client is available for MacOS and Windows, with a Linux version being worked on as we speak. Right now I use the bashipodder scripting hack, though it’s got one bug: sometimes a revised mp3 on a server can trick it into downloading it again. (Update: a tweak to cache the RSS file for comparison based on modification date reduces the need to repeatedly download the full file, and a look for the local file using the basename of the URL to get the name of the mp3 avoids multiple downloads.)

Anyway, I was working away with my headphones on listening to the awesome Rock and Roll Geek Show. Elana came into the office and started cracking up. She said, “Don’t you hear that?” I took off the headphones because I didn’t know what she was talking about.

Only to hear the podcast coming out of the speakers on my desk. I’d not actually turned them all the way down. Duh!

(What’s a podcast? It just started in August 2004; a small blog post offers some history behind it.)

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"Cheers" version of a wine bar

Filed under: — brendan @ 06:04 IST

The other night I got to visit a wine bar in Dublin with our friend Dolores, where we were joined by a couple of her workmates. I’d been really busy with work lately and had to go up into town that afternoon to a meeting. Dolores had stopped by our house for a cup of tea, and my wife Elana was a sweetheart and encouraged us to go to the wine bar after my meeting. E had been there before with her and really enjoyed it.

When Elana and I visited Florence a few years ago, we saw a traditional wine bar complete with Italian art, food, wine, and most importantly, character. This wine bar in Ireland sure looks the part. It’s called Enoteca Delle Langhe , and is set up in parts of two small buildings looking out on a wide open courtyard between them. The location is called Blooms Lane (ala Joyce in Ulysses) in the center of Dublin near Temple Bar and the new Millennium Bridge. During dry weather, you can sit outside at long wooden tables and enjoy overlapping conversations with new acquaintances, the stars shining down from the night sky. On one outer wall is a really large version of The Last Supper, but with faces replaced to be those of various people found from a walk through Dublin.

With the recast apostles gazing in on us, we enjoyed a red Italian wine that was a Montepulciano/Sangiovese blend, but I can’t for the life of me remember the vineyard. (And a few pages into a Google search for it, I have to admit defeat.) I remember the rather long words describing it because Dolores and I had just been talking about not having confidence in our pronounciation of “Montepulciano”. Our theory, which Elana later concurred: mawn-tay-pool-chee-ahh-no.

When the first bottle arrived, I asked the waitress for her opinion. (The theory being that this Italian wine bar has probably been asked the same thing by other newbie customers plenty of times.) She looked at me in confusion, and started to explain in broken English that it had to do with the kind of grape used in making the wine. Dolores and I both tried to more clearly ask the question, pointing at the word on the bottle’s label, but it only got the waitress more flustered. Then she announced to us, “Um, I don’t know any Italian.” Oh.

She went to another customer, and we sipped and chatted about editing the Innocent Joy story to try to submit to a magazine. The wine was inexpensive and absolutely delicious. The inside walls across from the large windows were covered top-to-bottom with wooden cubby-holes holding a wide variety of wines, undoubtedly all bottles for sale. When we first arrived, the various wooden tables were mostly empty. Within the next hour, every table was full, as was the bar across from us.

Dolores got a call on her mobile (cell phone), and told me that her friend from work was on her way to join us. We poured some wine into a third glass and set it down on the table in the spot next to me so we could secure her seat (one of four square wooden stools around our wooden table). Our attempt to create the image of a third person at our table who’d just stepped away for a moment didn’t seem to combat rudeness: a few minutes later a guy showed up to join the table behind us and pulled over the stool. He was of much bigger build than me, and neither Dolores nor I felt like raising a fuss. Luckily the other free seat at our table was protected by her coat, so when her friend arrived Dolores could give her a stool to sit on. A bit later, another coworker (a guy) appeared and joined us.

A fresh bottle of wine was opened, and we made two orders of munchies. The first was a meat and cheese plate carrying some amazing salami, sausage, parma ham, all sorts of goodies. We also had this neat crostini (little toasted bread) plate where each of nine toasted pieces of crostini had a different topping. A pesto, some cheese, an olive pate, you name it. The creativity used in its creation was impressive. And the food was SO good!

The crowd around the bar started to sing “Happy Birthday” and quickly everyone else joined in. Dolores said it was the owner’s birthday today. The target of the singing became more obvious as he ran his hands through his wild Billy Connolly grey hair. When the song ended, he made some wisecrack that earned some applause and plenty of laughter, then the room returned to its normal murmur.

Dolores’s female friend was explaining the rampant corruption of the Garda (police) in Ireland; her passion about the topic grew as the wine disappeared from her glass. Suddenly there was a strange resounding thud behind me. The lady on the stool behind me had fallen off her stool, to her embarrassment and the attention of everyone else in the wine bar. I offered my hand to help her, but she took this as a suggestion that she wasn’t “in full control of her faculties,” shall we say, and pulled herself back up on her own. She continued to apologize profusely with a silly grin on her face. Interestingly, her stool-thief friend had already slipped out before this happened.

Dolores picked up her mobile as it began to ring again, then passed it over to me. E was calling, asking why my phone was turned off and was I okay? I’d absentmindedly put my mobile into my jacket on the floor, and never heard its cries as E first sent me a text message then called 3 times. How can you effectively convey sheepish embarrassment over the phone? Hopefully enough apologies along with gratitude at having had the opportunity to go out saved me from any trouble. (I’ve heard “in the doghouse” three or four times on the radio or TV in the last couple of days, which is a really silly phrase. But nothing bugs me more than hearing people who should definitely know better use poor grammar. Too many shows have characters saying “she did a real good job,” not to mention reporters. Thank god for copy editors.) After I-love-yous I hung up and went back inside, passing people smoking their cigarettes outside in the cold. I quit about 7 years ago after smoking for nearly 15 years, and was relieved when I didn’t find myself tempted to bum one from them (wine or beer can seriously reduce the ability to resist the urge).

We’d only intended to stay there for a little while, but when it was finally time for us to go home (the majority of the four of us were now yawning regularly) approximately six hours had passed. But lots of good conversation, great wine and food, and an amazing atmosphere sure made the time speed by. Can’t wait to go there with Elana.

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